Veteran's Day and Red Poppy Activities

Veterans Day is a holiday observed annually to honor military veterans who gave their lives for our country. Veterans Day is celebrated on November 11, the "11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month" - the day and time that World War 1 ended. A recognized symbol of Vetrans Day is the red poppy. Do you know the story behind the red poppy?

The Poppy Story

The Great War, as it was known then, (World War I) was a war of destruction. The devastating battles took place across the Western Front, a 400-plus mile stretch of land weaving through France and Belgium from the Swiss border to the North Sea. The horrific battles destroyed fields, forests and towns, tearing up trees and plants. But, in early spring of 1915, red flowers began peeking through the battle-scarred land. Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian brigade surgeon serving on the front lines near Flander (northern Belgium), was in inspired by the sight of bright red blooms in the middle of the devastation. He wrote the poem, “In Flanders Field”, channeling the voice of the fallen soldiers buried under those hardy poppies.

In November, just two days before the armistice, Moina Michael, a volunteer at the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) wrote her own poem, "We Shall Keep the Faith" in response to In Flander’s Field. She vowed to wear a poppy in remembrance and created the first red fabric poppies which started the trend of wearing red poppies in support of returning veterans.  In 1920, the American Legion, a veteran’s group, adopted the poppy symbol of remembrance of the soldiers who fought and died during the war. Red poppies silk flowers were made and sold to help support veterans. Other nations have also embraced the In Flander's Field poem and have adopted the red poppy as a symbol of remembrance.

Fun Facts

After World War I, the poppy flourished in Europe. Scientists attributed the growth to soils in France and Belgium becoming enriched with lime from the rubble left by the war. From the dirt and mud grew a beautiful red poppy. 

Poppy Poems

Poem Activities

  • Students can practice their tech skills (navigating by lines or by paragraphs will improve comprehension!) with questions centering around comprehension. What story did each poem tell?
  • Discuss vocabulary words taken from one of the poems.
  • How did In Flander's Field impact Moina? How did Moina's poem impact others? How did this lead to a national holiday in the US? How did this carry over to a national impact?
  • Dive deeper: Research one of authors by and write about the author and why he/she wrote the poem or research how red poppies are used as symbols in other countries.
  • Research about WWI battles/battle locations such as Flander's Field.
  • Research about red poppies and why these plants grew in ravished areas while other plants did not.
  • Research and write about what the various poppy colors represent.
  • Create a PowerPoint presentation about poppies, and/or what the red poppy symbolizes, or about any of the related topics that were researched.

Poppy Craft

Materials

  • Different sized red cupcake liners (or use one size and trim some to be smaller)
  • Black buttons or black foam stickers
  • Straws (green, if desired) or green pipe stem cleaners
  • Double sided tape and glue dots or glue gun (adult may need to use the glue gun for safety purposes)
  1. For best results, use scissors that will create a wavy line. Trim cupcake lines so that edges are wavy. (Practice scissor skills)
  2. Use two different sized cupcake liners - place the smaller one inside the larger liner. (Discuss big/small)
  3. Glue black button in the center of the cupcake liners.
  4. Tape the straw to the back of cupcake liners to create the stem.
  5. Create one poppy or a bouquet of poppies!

Photo of two red poppies created with red cupcake liners, black buttons and straws.